The Donovan Commission and its Report
in Comrades in conflict
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This chapter explains how the establishment of a Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations, chaired by Lord Donovan, was a response by the Labour Government, narrowly elected in October 1964, to the problems and issues delineated in chapter one. However, it was also a quid pro quo for passing the 1965 Trade Disputes Act to restore the unions’ legal position following Rookes v Barnard. Prime Minister Harold Wilson had hoped that the Royal Commission would put forward radical and far-reaching proposals for reforming industrial relations and trade unionism, whereupon the Government could mollify trade union hostility by offering a rather more modest package of legislative reforms. However, the chapter notes that the Donovan Report, published in 1968, was strongly influenced by the Oxford School of industrial relations, and therefore proposed a strengthening of ‘voluntarism’, rather than placing collective bargaining within a clear legal framework. This was a deep disappointment to Wilson, who resolved, along with Barbara Castle, that the Labour Government would need to invoke comprehensive industrial relations legislation which went rather further than Donovan’s proposals, especially in order to tackle unofficial strikes.

Comrades in conflict

Labour, the trade unions and 1969’s In Place of Strife


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